Barely a year ago, Wayzata coach Bobby DeWitt thought he was done with baseball.
A former Gophers player, DeWitt had been a baseball lifer. He couldn’t imagine a life without the sport, not unless something drastic happened.
Something drastic happened.
In August 2014, a brain tumor was discovered in his 2-year-old son William, an identical twin to brother Sam.
Surgery to remove the tumor took place in September 2014. “It was supposed to be a six hours, but it ended up being 12 hours,” DeWitt said. “The surgeon said it was the most difficult operation he’d every performed.”
A biopsy of the tumor revealed more bad news. It was cancerous.
So DeWitt’s wife Rachel accompanied William to Illinois, where they lived in a Ronald McDonald House while he underwent radiation treatments five days a week for six weeks at the Chicago Proton Center in Warrenville.
Bobby stayed home with Sam. He longed to be with William, but cancer treatments aren’t cheap. His teaching job at Wayzata Central Middle School provided the insurance. “It took a financial toll,” he admitted.
Wayzata is a large school, and planning for the upcoming season, with preparations to make for five levels of baseball at the school, was just too much for DeWitt to manage. For the first time, baseball would have to take a back seat.
“The [players] deserve the best you can give them. There was no way I could do that,” DeWitt said. “My family needed all my attention. I thought I was done with baseball.”
William’s treatment was successful and he returned home to begin lengthy rehabilitation. “He had to relearn everything: to roll over, to swallow,” DeWitt said.
As William improved, DeWitt allowed his mind to drift toward baseball. He started going Wayzata games. “I realized I had more to give to baseball,” he recalled.
He returned as head coach this season, and the Trojans are one victory away from a state championship. DeWitt is back in the dugout, albeit with a different perspective.
“But after what’s happened to William, I can see how so many things are more important,” he said. “I want to give back to the players, not only on the field but in life. I want them to realize that the most important thing they can do is build positive relationships and help out other people.”
So far, the news on William is encouraging. He’s been clear of cancer for six months. His motor skills are the biggest obstacle, but, DeWitt said, William’s brain is not an issue.
“In fact, he took a neurological test last fall and mentally, he’s above average,” he said.
For DeWitt, his biggest goal is to make sure his team sees Monday’s Class 4A final against Champlin Park the way he does.
“It’s just a game,” he said. “Of course, we want to win, but at the same we want to enjoy it when we’re winning and enjoy when we’re not. And if we lose, the sun will come up tomorrow.”